Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Dalibunga Mphakanyiswa on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo, in Transkei; Eastern Cape Province.
Nelson was born into the to royal bloodline of the Thembu family. Mandela’s father was Henry Gadla Mphavanyiswas, who was a lower chief. As per Mandela his father “was a chief by both blood and custom” (Mandela, 1995, p. 3). He also describes his father as a respected and knowledgeable man within their community. Mandela comes from a large family as his father had 4 wives and 13 children. According to Mandela ” I am the eldest of the Right Hand House and the youngest of his father’s four sons. I have three sisters.
“(Mandela, 1995, p. 6). Mandela came from a large family which was due to his father having many wives. However, we see from the quote above that Mandela clearly identified more with his maternal side of the family as a single unit. Therefore, he was the eldest child; which was noted as the first born, Mandela was “highly motivated to achieve.” (Mandela, 1995, p.
168). Mandela’s mother was Nosekeni aka Fanny, she was the 3rd wife of Mandela’s father. Mandela does not provide a detail description of his mother and who she was as woman with the exception of her positioning status among the 4 wives “the Great wife, the Right Hand wife (my mother), the Left Hand wife and the wife of the Iqadi or Support House” (Mandela, 1995, p. 6). Although Mandela grews to become a great leader due to fight for inequality and injustice; we can see that Mandela view of his mother was not viewed in the same positive manner of which he gave his father.
It appears that she lacks her own identity which shows how women were considered to be lesser of a an equal to a man. During Mandela’s childhood, he contributes the family disadvantage due to his father’s stubborn proudness; which not only affected the father but the entire families. Therefore it was not a surprise later in life to see that Mandela repeated the same behavior by sacrifices his family for his own belief. When Mandela was about 7 years old, he was sent to missionary school. As per Mandela ” no one in my family had ever attended school” (Mandela, 1995, p.
13). It was during this time that Mandela was given his western name, Nelson. He believed that this was due to the Englishman’s unwillingness to accept or acknowledge the African culture.
However, despite the western school it was expected that he would follow in his father’s footsteps to become a great advisor to the king ” My life, and that of most Xhosas at the time was shaped by custom, ritual and taboo. This was the alpha and omega of our existence and went unquestioned. Men followed the path laid out for the by their father; women led the same lives at their mothers had before them. Without being told, I soon assimilate the elaborate rules that governed the relationship between men and women” (Mandela, 1995, p. 11). It was not soon after Nelson started school the family went through another crises, the death of his father.
Mandela was just 9 years old at the time. However, prior the his father’s death arrangements were made for Nelson to go live with the Chief and his family. It was expected when Mandela grew up that he would be the advisor to the chief’s son. Mandela was uprooted from his village; his family/friends and sent to live with strangers in a new environment. Being that Women had little right regarding the future of their male children, Mandela was sent to live with the chief as stated by his father once he died. Therefore, Mandela’s mother had no choice but to obey the father’s request. Even when Mandela was sent away leaving his family; no emotions were displayed between him and his mother; “our parting was without fuss.
” (Mandela, 1995, p. 17). This behavior was expected of Mandela, as he was a male child, and the gender roles were clearly defined within his tribe. Therefore crying for a boy who is being groomed for such a prominent position would be seen as a sign of weakness. Mandela also highly respected his father and did not want to let him down especially now that he was deceased. We can also speculate that Mandela’s father was the only male figure in his life up until his death, “children form concepts about gender and then fit their behavior to the concept.” (Rathus, 2016, p. 178) Later on throughout Mandela’s life we see how his customs, upbring and observation of the male figure within his tribe towards women may have unconsciously affected his personal relationship as well as his parenting style.
Mandela was raised within a polygamy culture but he chose not to practice his traditions instead he adapted and assimilated more towards the Western world becoming “bicultural”, (Bi-cultural -Wikipedia), he liked the Western way of living but did not like the oppression that was opposed on his people. Although Mandela was an excellent activist and strong political figure; when it came to his personal life he struggled to maintain a balance. He was faced with the moral dilemma of his loyalty to the people or his loyalty to his family; which in this case he chose to fight for his people. Mandela know that as long as Apartheid, existed within his country no one was safe not even his children. Therefore he know that he had no choice but to continue to fight for his cause for the future of everyone. Mandela did not intentionally set out to neglect his family; which I believe was an unconscious decision based on passed “…
feeling, thoughts, urges and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. … continue to influence our behavior and experience, our behavior and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences” (Cherry, June 23, 2017). Mandela was married three times; which two of his marriages ended in divorce. Mandela first wife felt neglected and alleged physical abuse during their marriage. She also felt that he was more dedicated to the cause than to his family.
Aftering divorcing his first wife, he married Winnie, who more involved and understanding of his cause; which resulted in them having a more of a “homogamy…people from similar backgrounds tend to be stable” (Rathus, 2016, p. 304), relationship due to both of their love for politics. Mandela’s marriage to Winnie also ended with divorces; which I believe was not so much due to him being in prison but due to them developing different political views. Although Mandela choice his political movement over his family he felt guilty “for myself, I have never regretted my commitment to the struggle, and I was always prepared to face the hardship that affected me personally.
But my family paid a terrible price, perhaps too dear a price for my commitment” (Mandela, 1995, p. 623). “I did not in the beginning choose to place my people above my family but in attempting to serve my people I found that I was preventing from fulfilling my obligations as a son, a brother, a father and a husband. We know from the prior statement that Mandela was raised by a stubborn and authoritarian father “…
demanding submission and obedience.” (Rathus, 2016, p. 167). When it comes to discipline and parenting styles, Mandela reported that “my father had a stern manner and did not spare the rod when discipline his children. He could be exceedingly stubborn, another trait that may unfortunately have passed down from father to son.” (Mandela, 1995, p.
5). I believe Mandela’s parenting style towards his own children as more of a “Permissive – parents attempts to behave in a non punitive, acceptant and affirmative manner towards the child’s impulses, desires and actions”. (Baumrind 1996). Although Mandela had good intention for children to live in a free country; they often felt abandoned and suffered increase anxiety. This was not only due to him being away from them but also the stress they must have experienced when the police aggressively came to their house. It appears that out of all of Mandela’s children his oldest son was greatly affected as they would have problems with their relationship as an adult that was never resolved “his other son, Thembi, ..
.resented the the break up with his mother and refused to have any contact with his father” (Preez, 2011, p. 165).
this broken relationship continued into his son’s adulthood. In 1968, Mandela was visited by his elderly mother; which he knew would be his last time every seeing her. She died a short time after due to a heart attack. Although Mandela displayed grief with the death of his mother, he was more accepting of her death as it was expected. He also was able to establish closure. Mandela again suffered another lost; however, this was traumatic as it was the tragic and sudden death of his oldest son with whom he never reestablish a positive relationship with “Mandela went to his cell and did not come out for dinner …. He did not sleep or eat; he just stood in one spot gazing out the window” (Preez, 2011, p. 166).
Although Mandela never openly displayed grief by shedding tears, we can gather from his stern upbring and customs that displaying of his outward emotions would not be considered a masculine thing to do “different cultures prescribe different period of mourning and different rituals for expressing grief.” (Rathus, 2016, p. 405). According to Erikson’s 8 stages of development a person goes through life they pass through interrelated stages. We see in the life of Mandela from youth to death the stages he passed through and how it related to Erikson’s theory. Yes there were some setbacks along the way due to various crisis the he faced in life. However, with positive reinforcement, guides and support that he was given, he was able to successfully overcome these crisis and successfully move from one stage level to the next stage level. Another factor I feel that contributed to Mandela’s success was that he was a male child and his family and others with in the village were more willing to invest in his future as he was a male child; were as with the females they were expected to marry and obey their husbands.
Mandela often attributed his love for the law due to the prominent male figures that he encountered as a youth such as his father and the chief; both were powerful speeches with a strong influence over others. Mandela recalled as a youth being allowed to go with his father during tribal traditions which was expected of him as this was to become his role as an adult. Also, while living with the chief; Mandela would often observe the chief holding important counseling meeting. Mandela’s successfully quality was due to the process of scaffolding and Zone of Proximal development; which shaped Mandela to become the great thinker and speaker; as he received “…
support provided by a parent or teacher to learning children” (Rathus, 2016, p. 157). He also was able to “… develop new cognitive skills as a function of working with more skilled people adult or older children can best guide children through this zone by hearing their assistance to children’s capabilities” (Rathus, 2016, p.
155). In addition to many traits that Mandela acquired; he was a man of intelligence as well as emotional intelligence. He was a man who displayed integrity and morals; which can be seen within him as a young man attending elite school and doing exceptionally well. He also was very confident in himself and would maintain his emotion regarding of the obstacle that he encountered. He was also a very motivated, dedicated and displayed commitment once he focused on a task. Mandela also recognized the emotional struggles of his people; which caused him to fight even harder as he knew he had came to far to turn back; because of his strong relationship with other. Mandela knew he would not let them down even if this meant his own life. He was a man that gave up so much to ensure that others after him would see his country as his ancestors once seen it.
A land where his people are not restricted to a certain location but able to move freely “I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free- free in every was that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars… I was not troubled by the laws of man or God… it was only when i began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began hunger for it. At first as a student I wanted freedom only for myself… but then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sister were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like me” (Mandela, 1995, p. 623-624).
Overall, Mandela was truly a great leader and human rights activist; he was a man with integrity and morals. Mandela would not given into the government despite the hardship that he faced; which many people would have given into all the pressure and harsh treatment. However, Mandela knew that he could not give up no matter what the outcome was as he was not fight for his generation but for the future generation. Mandela was “productive fosters the growth of the next generation.” (Erikson’s Psychosocial stages of Development- hand out) He would not stoop or could not stop until Africia was free for everyone.